By Lilly McKinney
Every now and then Furman students find themselves with an unprecedented weekend of freedom. Having no homework, upcoming tests, projects, or club activities makes for the perfect time to take a quick trip around the state. South Carolina may be relatively small, but there are plenty of activities to keep one occupied. The Low Country, Sandhills, Piedmont, and Upcountry each provide a variety of pastimes. Columbia, located an hour and a half from Furman, is a great place to begin your adventure. The capital city is home to many attractions, including Riverbanks Zoo and the Columbia Museum of Art.
Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is home to 170 acres of exhibits. Ranked as one of the top 10 zoos in the nation, the nominal $12 entry fee is well-worth the day of exploration ahead. The zoo features nine sections, including the Aquarium Reptile Complex, African Plains, Australian Animals, Birdhouse, and Large Mammals. Each section is home to a variety of animals including lemurs, kangaroos, gorillas, and elephants. The most recent additions include a baby koala and giraffe, both born at the zoo within the past two years. The zoo also features a tram ride which takes you to the westernmost side of the zoo, home to the botanical gardens. The garden also has nine sections, including the Asian Garden, Old Rose Garden, and Woodland Walk, a pleasant walking trail through the woods.
You can easily spend all day at the zoo, but should rain disrupt your plans, consider stopping by the Columbia Museum of Art. For a $12 entry fee, enjoy the spacious galleries highlighting works from across time periods and mediums. The first floor is home to visiting exhibitions, currently focusing on Japanese works. Upstairs you will find the museum’s permanent collection, featuring works by the likes of Claude Monet and Louis Comfort Tiffany. Don’t miss the impressive, two-story chandelier in the foyer, designed by Dale Chihuly.
While in Columbia, be sure to stroll through the Vista, a thriving area downtown with stores and restaurants. You might also take a bike ride along the Saluda Riverwalk, a trail along the Saluda River. Columbia is a small city with lots of big city amenities which can provide a fun excuse to get away from campus for a day trip or leisurely weekend.